Winter is a good time to go inward, to re-orient ourselves and connect with the spirit of the land. During these months, we will emphasize the essential aspects of shifting into a deeper awareness: the Tracker Mind.
Winter, here on the Central California coast, is also the time of damp substrate, so tracking and trailing are at their best.
Part 1: The Words Before All Else
This is always the best way to begin tracking, to acknowledge our gratitude towards the earth and what it brings to our lives. This is the spirit of humility which allows us to hold an ever-questioning mind and constant curiosity.
We will occasionally use aspects of the “Sacred Silence meditation” to deepen our grounding and quiet our minds as we tune into the earth.
Part 2: Entering Awareness
We will often review and practice the essential skills of Fox-walking and Open-awareness (wide angle vision). These involve sensory intensification, relaxed breathing, concentric rings in nature, and slowing down to lower our profile in nature. These are the first steps toward becoming more invisible in nature and allowing magical things to happen.
Part 3: Envisioning
With increasing awareness, we will explore the uses of sit-spots and drawing and journalling to enhance our detailed observation of the landscape and animal activity. We will study how to enter the land and read it for its potentialities, how and where it meets the needs of animal life—food, water, shelter (the concept of Lacks and Larders), and where animals are likely to be.
With Spring, we will work more on the arts of observation and awareness. Spring is a dynamic time of increased activity, of growth, birth, and abundance. Substrates are excellent for clear track detail and we will work closely with track detail.
Part 1: Bird Language and Baseline
As we move on the land, we will practice keeping part of our attention on the calls and movements of the birds around us, and notice what they can tell us about patterns of animal (and human) activity in the vicinity. We will study the feeling of baseline behavior in nature and how to notice when activity is OUT of baseline and indicating things that are beyond our own perceptual limits.
Part 2: The Three Perspectives
This is an essential orientation to tracks and nature. We will practice holding the three basic levels of awareness in all of our tracking activities: flying, standing, and kneeling. When we come upon an interesting track scenario, we will work to remember how the overall landscape relates to the scenario, and to remember to stand back and observe all the information in the immediate
Part 3: The Wall
As we work on how the ground records animal movement in minute details, we will also learn how to handle the frustrations that can arise and challenge our perceptual abilities and our knowledge base: “hitting the wall”. Going back to Tracker Mind, slowing down, breathing, opening up, we will learn to move through the momentary frustrations of tracking, and life in general!
As the year progresses and Spring shifts to Summer, as the days warm and lengthen, its a good time to focus on tracks, gaits and substrates.
Part 1: Track and Foot Morphology
We will study foot design, how foot morphology is related to habitat and purpose, minute details and geometry in tracks that help with ID.
Part 2: Gaits and Baseline
This is the world of movement patterns, how these patterns are related to the niche and habits of each animal, how they shift and change moment by moment, and what exceptions to baseline might mean.
Part 3: Pressure Releases, Weather and Aging
Pressure releases are where tracks begin to “speak”—in a sense they are the “voice of the tracks”. Pressure releases are the complex ways that ground responds to the pressure of feet during movement.
As the dry season extends into the Fall, substrates dry out and clear tracks get harder to find, but we will discover that the myriad signs of animal presence can tell us more about life in the landscape than actual tracks.
This is where awareness really brings nature to life.
This is truly the time of Holistic Tracking, where we learn to add up all the minute and subtle details we are gathering at all levels of awareness, to truly see deeply into the landscape and intuit the answers to the puzzles we confront.
At last the rains begin, transforming the landscape in the most important seasonal shift of the year. We will closely monitor all the changes—not the least of which are new reproductive patterns—this time of year brings.
Part 1: Scat ID and Analysis
What great fun it is to learn to identify animal scat—it is a key part of their whole network of inter-communication and tells us so much about the invisible patterns of life around us
Part 2: Feeding Sign
A huge world of subtle sign—browsing, chews, scrapes, nibbles, pecks…feeding sign can be found everywhere in nature.
Part 3: Digs, Runs, Scrapes, Rubs, Nests
These are signs of how animals are physically interacting with their surroundings, an extremely rich area of study
Part 4: Kill Sites
Whenever possible, we will stop to examine carcasses and animal remains. This is always a great opportunity to learn more about skeletal structures of birds and mammals, feather and fur ID, and the unique ways of each predator.
TRANSITION INTO WINTER
As we finish the cycle of the seasons and reflect on what we have learned, it will be a good time to pay attention to what we are gaining from the practice of tracking and awareness.
While we will be witnessing the most profound changes of the year in our landscape, we will also be clear about how nature connection can bring profound changes to the qualities of our lives.
We will see that it is possible to do everything from a tracker’s state of mind, helping us deal with panic, frustration and grief in our everyday lives with the ultimate skills of living in the present moment and living with gratitude. We ultimately discover that everything in life involves tracking.